Lately, I’ve been in a real creative slump.
It began when I finished running my first course, Wild Intuitive Journaling, and I noticed my creative well was dry. I’d poured so much into the creation of the course that I had little left by the end of it.
Add to that the fact that I’ve been feeling unwell for about a month and I’ve had no interest or energy to create anything at all. I barely picked up my journal, struggled to write any blog posts or share on social media.
Yep, I was well and truly in a creative slump.
I did what I usually do at this point – panic that all my creativity and inspiration had left me for good. That I would never write or paint again. That, it turns out, I’m not an inherently creative being – that was just a front I’ve kept up for a few years – and really I’m this sad and hopeless person underneath.
But I’ve been through enough creative slumps now to realise that none of that is true. More than that, I’ve realised that creativity is cyclical – like anything else. It waxes and wanes. It made sense that after a period of intense creativity, coupled with needing to look after my unwell self, that I didn’t have the energy or inclination to create.
I’ve realised that creativity is cyclical – like anything else. It waxes and wanes.
So I allowed myself the time to do nothing. To step back and be gentle.
But as the weeks turned into a month, and I found myself feeling better, I wondered how, exactly, I could get my creative mojo back. I was ready to jump back in but had no idea where to start.
Here’s what I’ve found helpful as I carefully step back into the creative arena.
1. Go easy on yourself
First of all, don’t beat yourself up for not creating. Don’t add blame and guilt to fire. If you’ve found yourself in a bit of a creative slump, chances are there is a good reason you are there. For me, that reason was illness and needing to refill my creative well.
And you know what? Even if there isn’t a ‘good’ reason that you can identify – that doesn’t matter. Don’t make yourself feel worse by adding guilt or shame – let yourself off the hook. You’re allowed to take a break.
2. Seek out inspiration
This, honestly, has been my favourite part. I’ve taken it as a chance to soak up the work of others, to seek out what excites me. I’m scouring the blogs of my favourite journalers, I’m going back through my Pinterest boards to see images that fill me with inspiration. I’m watching YouTube videos and going back through materials from past journaling courses I’ve taken.
I have certain journalers whose work I love, who never fail to inspire me. Looking at their work sparks a little inspiration inside, and the more I look through it, the more it fans the flames. Before long I’m grabbing my paints and scribbling in my journal.
3. Join a challenge or group
There are so many free art groups and challenges out there. The best thing about joining something like this is the accountability. You feel you need to show up and participate – especially if you’ve declared publicly that you’re doing it.
Not only that, but there is so much support from other creatives. The more you share, the more people will cheer you on. That feels really good. And when you hit a wall, if you share that with the group, you’ll be amazed to find others are feeling the same. Sometimes we think we are alone in our struggles, but when we share them with others we quickly learn we aren’t.
Another good thing about joining a challenge is that it can be a good way to jump-start your practice. Often a challenge will have a theme or prompts, or other guiding material which can help guide you as you step back into your creativity.
Here are some of my favourite art/journaling challenges and groups – all of them are free. Some of these have time frames and some are ongoing:
Journaling Dangerously challenge and Journaling Dangerously group
15 Minute Practice challenge and 15 Minute Practice group
Index-Card-A-Day challenge and ICAD-2016 group
Inner Excavate Along challenge and Inner Excavation Group
Journal 52 challenge and Journal 52 group
30 Day Journal Project
100 Days Project
4. Treat yourself to new supplies
This can be a really fun way to get out of a creative slump. And let’s face it – who among us doesn’t have a massive list of dream art supplies? Don’t break the bank, but it surely wouldn’t hurt to allow yourself to grab a few pots of that paint you’ve always wanted to try, or some new brushes, or a few balls of that gorgeous yarn.
Sometimes the excitement of trying a new material, colour or tool can be enough to get us creating again.
5. Sign up for a course
Is there an online course you’ve been eyeing for ages but never allowed yourself to sign up for? Now’s the time. Find an artist or teacher you love or whom you’ve always wanted to learn from, and indulge.
A word of warning – this can be an easy way to waste money, if you’re not careful. Obviously, signing up for the course alone won’t get you out of the slump – you’ll need to show up and do the work. But, if you sign up for a course that truly inspires you, one that ignites that creative spark inside, then that should certainly be a good investment.
Another thing to consider here is to take baby steps – don’t sign up for the six month intensive, maybe just start with the four week introductory course and go from there. The last thing we want is for you to feel overwhelmed, and then guilty for not following through!
6. Take time out from other things
It might be that you’re in a creative slump because you haven’t had the time or energy to create – your life has been too full. Maybe you’ve found yourself working extra shifts at work. Maybe you’re taking on more responsibilities around the house, or helping a friend or family member with something. Perhaps you’ve signed up for a new exercise programme at the gym.
Whatever it is, if you want to have the time and energy to create again, you might need to make some sacrifices somewhere else. I’m not suggesting you quit the gym or leave your job, but you might need to ask for help from someone else to allow you a little time to create. Ask your spouse to watch the kids one night a week so you can journal. Take your knitting to work and use your lunch break as a chance to knit. Wake up a little earlier to get 15 minutes of writing in.
Try to find a way to allow more time and energy in your life to get creative, even if that means taking some time or energy out from another area of your life. Chances are, you’ll feel better for it.
* * *
I’m now finding myself taking careful and gentle steps back into my creative self-expression. Writing this post is one of the first ways of doing that, and I hope it helps even one person find their creative footing again.
Remember, you’re not alone and your inspiration isn’t gone forever – it will come back around when the time is right.